Fishing from a dory

The Swampscott dory is a traditional fishing boat, used during the middle of the 19th century by fishing villages along the North Shore coast of Massachusetts centered on Swampscott. It is designed to be launched off the beach.[1][2][3] The rounded hull provides more buoyancy for launching through surf than the slab sided banks dory. The flat bottom allows the boat to sit upright on the beach.[4] The lack of a keel keeps the boat from being grabbed by a wave and allows the boat to pass cleanly through the surf. The boat still heels easily which allows large fish to be rolled into the boat vs having to lift the fish completely up over the gunnel. The Swampscott Dory, a fishing boat still in use throughout the world today, was invented in 1840 by Theophilius Brackett [5][6] to row and to pull lobster pots. These dories compare favorably with the New Bedford whaleboat and the Gloucester seine boat.[7]

The Swampscott dory is a melding of the earlier Wherry design and the river bateau, which later led to new construction techniques used in the mass production of the Banks dory. Swampscott dories are built with rounded sides and slightly less overhang stern than a banks dory.[8] Swampscott dories are generally from 14 to 18 ft in length, the longer boat being crewed by two oarsmen.[9]

Eventually the Swampscott dory developed into a recreational sailboat as well, known as the clipper dory, and then the alpha and beachcomber dory.[10] These inexpensive sailboats were raced along the coast of Massachusetts during the early part of the 20th century. The sail rig was typically a Leg of Mutton and small jib on an unstayed mast.[11]

According to Gardner, Swampscott dorys are the "aristocrats of the dory clan and not to be confused with their clumsier, more crudely built cousins, the heavy, slab-sided working dories of the Grand Banks fishermen."[12] He feels that the Swampscott dory rows and handles more easily, and are every bit as good seaboats.

Lowell's Boat Shop, one of the original builders of dories,[13] markets a similar boat as a surf dory.[14]


  1. ^ Gardner – The Dory Book p. 174
  2. ^ Chapelle p. 91
  3. ^ "Swampscott Dory Eleanor". Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  4. ^ Gardner – More Building Classic Small Craft p. 194
  5. ^ Hellman, p. 523
  6. ^ Bates, p. A2635
  7. ^ Gardner – The Dory Book p. 174
  8. ^ Chapelle p. 91
  9. ^ Chapelle p. 92
  10. ^ Gardner – The Dory Book p. 209
  11. ^ "A Boat for all Seasons". Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  12. ^ Gardner – More Building Classic Small Craft p. 195
  13. ^ "America's Oldest Boat Shop Has Been Making Hunky Dories for 226 Years". Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  14. ^ "Individual Boats Built by Lowell's". Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  • Bates, Hon. William H. (1952). One Hundredth Anniversary of Swampscott MA (PDF). Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 82nd Congress 2nd Session Vol 98 Part 10. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  • Chapelle, Howard I. (1951). American Small Sailing Craft: Their Design, Development and Construction. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393031430.
  • Gardner, John (1978). The Dory Book. Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic Connecticut. ISBN 0-87742-090-4.
  • Gardner, John (1990). More Building Classic Small Craft: how to build 23 traditional boats. International Marine Publishing Co., Camden, ME. ISBN 0-87742-274-5.
  • Hellmann, Paul T. (2005). Historical Gazetteer of the United States. Taylor & Francis Books & Co. ISBN 0-415-93948-8.